Alberta asks to cut public service pay as high as five per cent

A report last summer said the province pays much higher on average per capita for public services

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews, left, delivers the provincial budget as Premier Jason Kenney looks on, in Edmonton, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The Alberta government is seeking wage rollbacks as binding arbitration is set to resume with unions that represent more than 180,000 public-sector workers.

Finance Minister Travis Toews says the United Conservative government will ask arbitrators to impose an average two-per-cent wage cut in 30 upcoming public sector wage cases, but the amount will vary. In some cases, it will ask for reductions as high as five per cent.

Toews said the province has great respect for what the workers do, but public-sector pay accounts for more than half of government expenses and is higher than comparable provinces.

He said the goal is to bring salaries in line with workers in similar provinces.

“We want to be fair to our public sector,” Toews said Tuesday.

“(But) the MacKinnon panel (on Alberta’s finances) recommended that over time we would move our public sector remuneration in line with the other provinces and this will accomplish that.”

Workers affected include nurses, teachers, social workers, hospital support staff, prison guards, conservation officers, toxicologists, restaurant inspectors, therapists and sheriffs.

They were to have their wages reopened earlier this year under collective agreements, but the province passed a law to delay the talks until Oct. 31 so it could get information from a panel headed by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon.

The panel reported in August that Alberta pays much higher on average per capita for services and in some cases receives poorer results. It urged immediate action to reduce spending to end multibillion-dollar deficits and spiralling debt.

The unions had been asking for pay raises ranging from three to almost eight per cent, and the government had initially been pushing for a wage freeze.

Toews said circumstances now demand a cut.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees called the move a direct attack on the livelihoods of front-line workers and their families.

“This is a further hit to hard-working Albertans who have already taken two years of zero wage adjustments,” president Guy Smith said.

“The anger that has built up is now in danger of spilling out into the streets.

READ MORE: Alberta tables climate plan for industry; retains key parts of old legislation

“Over 1,000 AUPE activists gathered at our recent convention in Edmonton. They unanimously endorsed a resolution to fully support any groups of members that take direct action against their employer.”

Earlier this week, the government tabled legislation to allow it to use replacement workers instead of union staff to cover off essential services in case of job action.

In last week’s budget, Premier Jason Kenney’s government said it aims to reduce the size of the civil service, mainly through not filling jobs when they come open.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central zone active cases down to 20

Province provides update

Ladies Golf Scramble raises $3,355 for local charity

All proceeds raised will be donated to the Education Plus Fund for the WRPS district.

Three Central Alberta breweries win big at the Canadian Brewing Awards this year.

Hawk Tail Brewery among two other Central Alberta Breweries to bring home top accolades.

Wetaskiwin RCMP make arrests for Hit and Run to residence

Damage estimates are expected to be in excess of $20,000.

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

First annual Best of Wetaskiwin Readers’ Choice Awards

Enter to win a $200 gift card for Canadian Tire.

Lacombe beekeepers give the buzz on winterizing hives

Winterizing a honeybee hive is not a simple task, local apiarists say

Six injured, man in custody following BB gun incident in Alberta, RCMP say

Airdrie’s downtown core was told to shelter-in-place, while others nearby were asked to stay inside

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

“My world exploded,” says Bentley-area farmer who’s swather was struck by a motorist

Dennis Duncan was a mile from home when his swather was struck by another travelling at high speeds

Most Read